PeaceHealth investigates possible hepatitis C exposure

Former employee could have exposed patients to the disease

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PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Clark County Public Health are conducting a joint investigation about a possible hepatitis C exposure involving patients.

According to a press release, some patients might have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus, a blood-borne liver disease, through the actions of a former PeaceHealth Southwest employee, who left the hospital in March 2014.

“Our caregivers work hard every day to heal and help patients,” said Sy Johnson, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center chief executive officer. “We are all deeply troubled by this discovery.”

PeaceHealth Southwest and Clark County Public Health are expected to complete the investigation by May 20. At that time, certified letters will be mailed to all patients who might have received care from the former employee. Those patients will be urged to receive hepatitis C testing at the expense of PeaceHealth Southwest.

“Although the likelihood of infection is very low, we are acting with great caution to ensure the well-being of our patients,” Johnson said. “We take this very seriously. I apologize for the anxiety this is certain to cause our patients and their loved ones.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice.

Patients who would like to receive more information about the investigation, can call the patient support line at 729-2000.